'Our hidden heroes sacrifice every day:' Pence on America's 5.5 million caregivers

Elizabeth Howe
November 26, 2018 - 1:36 pm

Photo courtesy of Lisa Nipp

There are now 5.5 million "Hidden Heroes" in America — military and veteran caregivers and their families. Vice President Mike Pence along with 400 leaders from veteran and caregiver organizations joined together to recognize and support them.  

Photo courtesy of Lisa Nipp

"Our caregivers are out there doing amazing work every day. They're moms, dads, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters and neighbors and friends," said Vice President Pence. "Our hidden heroes sacrifice every day."

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Senator Dole in 2012, is the preeminent organization empowering, supporting, and honoring military caregivers who care for America's wounded, ill or injured service members and veterans at home. The all-day event was hosted by the Foundation in collaboration with the VA and Philips. In addition to the vice president, Senator Elizabeth Dole and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie also spoke. 

"I am proud to partner with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and Senator Dole for the third year in a row to help make this event possible," Wilkie said. 

The main feature of the event was the unveiling of the Military and Caregiver Experience Map — a tool created by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, the VA, and Philips

"We're so pleased to share our progress with all of you today," said Dole. "To present this universal tool that everyone from nonprofits to legislators to employers to the faith community can use to create innovative and sustainable support."

The map was made possible through collaboration with the RAND Corporation's Hidden Heroes: America's Military Caregivers study and with the input of 500 military and veteran caregivers, researchers, and members of the community — many of whom were present at the convening.

"Not only have we together uncovered the landscape of challenges facing military caregivers, not only have we built a nationwide community passionately dedicated to this cause, not only have we awakened America to the tremendous service and sacrifices of our hidden heroes — together we have irreversibly changed the standard by which our nation's leaders measure veterans care in America," Dole said. 

“I expect for many families in these circumstances its the unknown that’s most frightening," said Vice President Pence. "But I think like anything else in life, if you can see all at once, then you can be better prepared…and that’s what this new and innovative tool will do for families and caregivers."

During his address, the vice president also announced that the VA's newest Center of Excellence for Veteran and Caregiver Research, an initiative announced in September by Secretary Wilkie, will be named after Senator Elizabeth Dole.

Only the third annual convening, the Foundation, and the caregiver community have made enormous progress towards supporting the country's caregivers as they deserve to be supported. However, leaders and caregivers alike recognize that more work needs to be done.

"No one — no one — gives more to our nation's veterans than you do," said Wilkie. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, if we do not do everything in our power to help our caregivers and their families — if we don't get this right — we can expect the caregiver journey to be a hard road traveled by multiple generations," said Dole. 

To learn about the Foundation's ongoing projects and find out how you can help visit the Elizabeth Dole Foundation website.